Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Shriram Iyer and the Wings of Silence

Last Sunday, it was time to head out to my local Easy Library, in Koramangala, Bangalore, yet again...The scheduled event was the promising launch of Shriram Iyer's Wings of Silence...Attendees were promised an enjoyable performance from the soundtrack that accompanies the book. Author Shinie Antony quizzed Shriram Iyer on the various facets of his authorial debut.

Shriram Iyer started off by talking about the dynamics at play between siblings. He explained how, as a single child, he had always wondered how his life would have turned out if he had had a sibling, though he never really felt a "lack" of siblings. As an only child, he had the very best that his parents could offer him and it was a delight to have his charming parents in attendance too at this event! The author believed that "younger kids are almost assured of success in the world", and this observation of his is what prompted him to pen down the novel. What would the younger one choose when it came to other members of his family? In order to explore this issue, Iyer chose to tell the story of Raj, the elder child of a couple, who had been born deaf and hence, unable to express himself verbally. This character was not meant to be gifted in any way. His younger sibling, on the other hand, rose to be a popular sportsperson in school.

Iyer explained how being a deaf child in the 1970s was different from being a deaf child in today's world. He had carried out extensive research into the topic and about 5% of his research made its way into the final version of his novel. His research validated the decision to make the character deaf. The main challenge for anyone with a disability is to let the other senses take over from the disability itself. The author read out 3 excerpts from his coming-of-age novel, which gave us a fascinating insight into the world of the two brothers through Raj's diary. As to why he chose the 1980s and the Moscow Olympics as a backdrop to the novel, he said it was because the Olympics are the higest pinnacle of sports and sports is a lot about human character and endurance. The Cold War too provided an interesting setting for the Moscow Olympics.

As for the way the novel shaped up, Iyer observed how storytelling could be through different media - books, music, theatre and so on. The novel, though a debut novel, is entirely fictional and there is nothing autobiographical about it. The author candidly admits, "The protagonist was what I wanted to be"! He enjoyed writing in crowded malls as it gave him an opportunity to observe and integrate the conversations around him. He felt that dialogues are always difficult and the main task of a writer is to "show" rather than "tell". 

Shinie Antony asked Iyer about the highs and lows of writing the book. Iyer said the thrill of spontaneously chanelling the story over 4 years was a high, while he would count his earlier rejections by US and UK publishers as the lows. He explained how this was not a niche book, but was more of a coming-of-age story. While characters are young adults, it was not just another teenage book. The author commented on how his second attempt had overlaps with this first one and he was forced to drop the idea. His second book is a murder mystery that he is terribly stirred about, while the third book he is working on is a mythological thriller!

To finish this extremely engaging session, Shriram Iyer said that being a trained singer, he wanted to see how the readers would react to an accompanying soundtrack that would express the emotions of the characters through music. He regaled the audience with a few chosen songs from the soundtrack...It was interesting to note that while Iyer writes fiction only in English, he is able to pen lyrics only in Hindi. This, I believe, calls for an excellent translation effort in the near future!